Taiwan does not seek military confrontation but will do whatever it takes to defend its freedom, President Tsai Ing-wen said on Friday, amid a rise in tensions with China that has sparked alarm around the world.
Taiwan, claimed by China as its own territory, reported close to 150 Chinese air force aircraft flew into its air defense zone over a four-day period beginning October 1, though those missions have since ended.
Taiwan has complained for more than a year of such activities, which it views as “grey zone warfare,” designed to wear out Taiwan’s armed forces and test their ability to respond.
“Taiwan does not seek military confrontation,” Tsai told a security forum in Taipei. “It hopes for a peaceful, stable, predictable and mutually beneficial coexistence with its neighbors. But Taiwan will also do whatever it takes to defend its freedom and democratic way of life.”
China says it is acting to protect its security and sovereignty, and has blamed the United States – Taiwan’s most important international backer and arms supplier – for the latest tensions.
Tsai said Taiwan will work with other countries in the region to ensure stability.
“Taiwan is fully committed to collaborating with regional players to prevent armed conflict in the East China, South China Seas and in the Taiwan Strait,” she added.
Taiwan has been seeking the support of other democracies as the stand-off with China worsens, and is this week hosting four French senators and former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, though he is visiting in a personal capacity.